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Antibiotic Use During the First Year of Life Increases the Risk for Asthma

New research published inside the June 2007 publication of the scientific journal Chest implies that the potential risk of asthma is 1.5 times greater in infants who received over four courses of antibiotics previous to age 1. The study was reported in the June 15, 2007 Medscape website as well as in several news outlets such as the online June 11, 2007 Toronto Star.

Researchers reviewed healthcare and prescription databases in Manitoba, Canada well over 13 thousand children to determine if there is a connection between antibiotic prescription use within the first year of life and asthma at the age of 7. The outcomes indicated that children who were given antibiotics in the first year of life were more prone to develop asthma by age seven. Children in this group who had been given four courses of antibiotics were most at risk.

Study author Anita L. Kozyrskyj, PhD, with the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada, commented, "Since oral antibiotics are often prescribed for lower and upper respiratory tract infections in kids, a knowledge of the relation between antibiotic use and asthma is important to clinicians and health-care policymakers worldwide." She continued, "To address the main methodological issues of reverse causation and selection bias in epidemiologic studies of antibiotic used in formative years and the progression of asthma, we undertook a cohort study of this association in a complete population of kids."

The authors noted that further studies were needed but suggested, "In the interim, it might be prudent to prevent the unwanted use BS antibiotics inside the first year of life when other antibiotics are available." They concluded, "Antibiotic utilization in formative years was linked to the progression of childhood asthma, a risk which may be reduced by avoiding the use of BS [broad-spectrum] cephalosporins."

The Toronto Star interviewed Dr. Sheldon Spier, a pediatric respirologist at the Alberta Children's Hospital. Dr. Spier commented that this study might help explain why asthma develops in some children. "This study is really quite important," he continued, "It informs us much more about asthma and the possible factors that lead to it. But we do have to be careful in our interpretation of it."

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